Grants to boost Brodhead’s recreational corridor plan
BRODHEAD Plans for the Pearl Island Recreational Corridor started eight years ago while Brodhead resident Ric Genthe walked his two golden retrievers.
While hiking along the Mill Race on the northwest side of Brodhead, he wondered how far the trail went along the water. Asking around, he discovered it was city-owned property.
“I said, ‘You’re kidding me. Why don’t we do something with it?’” he said.
Years later, the effort to develop the area into a recreational corridor is getting a boost from two state grants totaling $350,000. The grants from the Urban Rivers Program and Recreational Trails Program require local matches, but volunteer hours and donated services count toward the local match, Genthe said.
“We have been working on this project for over four years. It’s rewarding to have our hard work pay off for this community and Green County,” Genthe said.
He is spearheading the project along with others on a subcommittee of the city’s economic development committee. The group hopes to start work early next year.
Pearl Island—named because of the pearls people collected decades ago in the Sugar River—is 180 acres between the Sugar River and the Mill Race.
Plans call for extending the existing Mill Race Trail and connecting the community to the river with portage areas, boat landings, boardwalk pathways and supporting recreational activities, such as biking, walking, hiking, wildlife viewing and snowshoeing.
When officials from the state Department of Natural Resources toured the area, they pointed out something unique in Wisconsin: You can start and end canoeing at the same point, Genthe said. Paddlers can start in downtown on the Mill Race and with a short portage, go down the Sugar River and end up back where they started after a seven-mile loop, he said.
That feature and others can be a draw for tourism, he said.
The biggest parts of the project include building pedestrian bridges and improvements to the lookout facilities at Decatur Park, also known as Boy Scout Park.
“We want to improve the trail so everybody can basically walk three miles from downtown Brodhead all the way up to the (Decatur) dam,” Genthe said.
They also want to improve the fish habitat to increase natural reproduction, he said.
Genthe has learned through his career in marketing and advertising that when anyone from Chicagoland crosses the state line, “mentally they think they are in the north woods,” he said.
“All we have to do is create an environment that they could enjoy the outdoors four seasons out of the year,” he said.
While Brodhead’s population is about 3,300, the Crazy Horse Campground on the edge of town can bring in another 1,500 on a good weekend, he said.
“It was pretty exciting to open that letter,” Rich Vogel of the Brodhead Public Works Department said in a news release. “I hope everyone can now see the importance of this project for the growth and livelihood of our community.”